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Friday, February 27, 2015

New Korean Films: Wandering Souls (2015 Week 8)

By Fabien Schneider

Yes, I know, you must have been profoundly perturbed from waiting in vain for my column last week. But rest assured that this absence wasn't caused by my laziness, but was actually the result of an event that is quite rare: there simply was not a single Korean film released that week. No need to worry, the rhythm that you've been used to is back again with three new films gracing theaters this week, all of them independent productions.

The Avian Kind

Jeong-seok is a famous novelist who spent the last fifteen years exploring the most remote areas of the country, looking for his wife who disappeared suddenly without leaving any trace. His last book recalls the events he went through, which doesn’t go unnoticed. A mysterious woman contacts him on the pretense that she can help him in his quest, while a group of people who also saw their dear ones vanishing think that Jeong-seok is the most fitted to get them to the truth. All the clues put together seem to point toward a village. But what they will discover there goes beyond everything they could imagine.

If you’re a devoted visitor of our blog, this title must already ring a bell. We discovered this film at last year’s Jeonju International Festival, and it ended up at sixth on our ten favorite Korean films of 2014. With this film, director Shin Yeon-shick seems to confirm to us that he’s definitively found his own style, as the aesthetics and narrative complexity recall his Russian Novel (2013). Both stories emanate a strong literary feeling, what with novelists as main protagonists. They also share elements that are quite mysterious or even fantastic, which feels particularly fresh for Korean cinema. The lead actor, Kim Jeong-seok, has been used to supporting roles since the 80s, but has often appeared in indie productions these last years, like in Han Gong-ju (2013). The other lead, Soy, comes from the indie music scene where she’s been active since 1999 under various names. As you would expect from an indie production, the film will be screened only in a few cities beyond Seoul, mainly in indie theaters and Lotte multiplexes. But with the excellent reviews from the local critics as well as from the international journalists, we can assume that this film will also have a long run in festivals. Read MKC's review here.



Hui-yong is a father who never acted as one or even never expressed any form of maturity. When the doctors inform him that he’s plagued with cancer and that he only has a few weeks left to live, he decides to make it up to his son, Gi-hwa, and wants to go on a trip with him and his old friend Seung-cheol. But this is easier said than done, as the son has not seen his father for the last four years and has just been released from jail.

Despite what the name of the production company, “Avant-garde films”, would suggest, this film is not so avant-garde and seems to follow the popular trend for road-movies in Korean cinema. The road will take them to Tongyeong, a charming seaside resort located on the south-east side of the peninsula (it’s one of my favorite places in Korea, thanks to the beautiful and dramatic sceneries that can be found on the neighboring islands). This is the second feature film for director Moon Jeong-yoon, but the first one to get released in theaters, as his debut Sit and go (2013) has only been screened at festivals so far. There is no famous face in the cast; most of the actors make their debuts. And since the film has been rated for a mature audience and will be screened only in a few theaters around Seoul and also in Geoje (a small city close to Tongyeong), the film will have to content itself with a well-informed audience. This film will probably get more recognition on the festival circuit.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

The Maidroid

(친절한 가정부)

Sang-soo makes a living from many part-time jobs. He barely has time to spend on domestic chores, and thus his home is left in desolation. Until the day a strange package is delivered to his apartment. Inside of it an unexpected gift: a “real-bot”, a female housekeeper android named Pink. A few days later, as Sang-soo comes back home at a late hour of the night, she suddenly appears more attractive than any other woman.

A week of Korean films releases wouldn’t be complete without yet another racy production (and I’m sure that they’re to thank for bringing a significant amount of visitors to this column). Noh Jin-soo is a director who has given us comedies such as Norwegian Woods (2009) and Total Messed Family (2013). He gave thrillers a try with The Suffered last year, but he’s coming back to comedies with this film, with an added value of sexiness. I really hope that the plot is less misogynist and smarter than it seems. But note that the “perfect woman” is played by Aino Kishi, a popular AV and “pinku” actress from Japan. If you’re not really into this kind of cinema, maybe you’ll know Yeong Geon better, who played, well, Yeong Geon in Invasion of Alien Bikini (2010) and in Young Gun in the Time (2012). The film will be available online where it will make most of its profit without any doubt, while the more traditionalist movie-goers can still go in the two Joy’n’Cinema indie theaters that will screen it.

Watch the Korean trailer with English subtitles here.

New Korean Films is a weekly feature which provide an in-depth look at new local releases in Korea. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time). Reviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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1 comment:

  1. These movies look quite interesting, especially Gi-hwa.

    This could be a very good year for Korean film, I'm really looking forward to seeing what else is released.